Irish Chocolate Cake

Everybody needs a good chocolate cake that they can conjure up to appreciative groans and lip licking smiles.  Because, let’s face it, there are times when only chocolate will do!  As for the Irish part well that would be the use of either buttermilk or Guinness (depending on preference/age group) both of which are very Irish ingredients and each giving a very tender crumb to the cake.

You can have this cake with a cuppa or as a pudding served with creme fraiche.  You can decorate the ganache icing anyway you choose.  Or leave it plain.

Of the two “Irish” ingredients well, If you choose to use Guinness it gives the chocolate a slightly spicy, sophisticated kick and if you use buttermilk it becomes slightly lighter and fresher   As well as Guinness/buttermilk and chocolate the cake uses dark brown sugar to give an extra fudgey taste. Continue reading

Banana Icecream

This has got to be the easiest icecream ever   Its almost instant and very tasty (I promise I am not just saying that because it’s good for you!). It’s also vegan, raw, paleo, refined sugar free, gluten free and dairy free so you can cover almost all dietary requirements!  To make it you just need a freezer and a food processor or blender   It sounds too good to be true?  Well prepare to be amazed Continue reading

Mediterranean Salad

I love this salad with crusty bread for lunch as the combination of flavours is sooo good.  It’s great as a starter, or serve it with simply grilled or BBQ’d meat, poultry or fish – but you do need the bread to mop up the juices.  If you think salads are boring then this will change your mind as this Salad positively oozes sunshine and sings of summer holidays in the Med Continue reading

Banana Bread Muffins

My friend Rachel – she of Christmas cake icing fame – asked me to blog about what I do with very ripe bananas.  This banana bread recipe is the first of two things I do and certainly the more traditional of the two.   The second, which will follow tomorrow, is an almost instant banana icecream which is vegan (though you’d never know it as it tastes so creamy) and it’s free from refined sugar

It can be baked as a loaf or in muffin cases.  I invariably choose to do it in individual muffin cases as it freezes so beautifully and can be microwaved for a minute from frozen to taste as fresh and delicious as it was when it came from the oven which is really useful.  Plus, if you call it a muffin it means that it somehow is ok to have what is essentially a cake for breakfast (as well as with a cuppa or anytime really)!  In fairness it does keep in a tin for a few days but as this recipe makes 2 small loaves or 12 individual Muffins.   Freezing the extras works for me otherwise I find myself saying “just one more….” Continue reading

Cooking in a Woodfired Oven

On Saturday I went on a course to learn how to use our rather elderly pizza oven properly.  We have had it for 18 years now so, although I had been doing pizzas in it, I was sure I could do more and better!

Mike, who is the pizzaiolo of Lucca Enoteca in Manningtree, is a third generation Italian chef and turns out something like 800 pizzas a week from his woodfired oven certainly helped me look at things differently.

Rather than make this an extra long post, I will post how to make and shape dough another time as well as giving some ideas for different combos of toppings and how to make calzones.   I must, however, mention Nutella pizza   Just cook a plain base and spread with Nutella once out of the oven   I found today the Nutella had mysteriously disappeared so I used praline paste and chocolate drops instead   Delicious with an espresso to sip on

The photos are from today, Sunday, when I put what I had learnt to the test   I think I got the best results ever and am no longer worried about putting the pizza directly on the oven floor as I know how to control the ash  Here are the top ten tips I learnt  Continue reading

Salted Chocolate Caramel Mousse

This recipe makes me feel very sophisticated and very French, particularly if I serve it in small, elegant coffee cups. I can easily imagine myself as a very chic Parisian Madame as I eat it. It doesn’t need cream as the hint of salt cuts through the richness of the chocolate  The caramel element adds a lusciousness and depth that is often missing from mousses.  It can be dressed up with almond biscuits or berries or even a madeleine on the side – this time I added a mini chocolate praline egg for Easter   For entertaining it is a perfect recipe as it can be made in advance and keeps – providing you can repel marauders – for up to a week in the fridge.   In my opinion its intensity probably makes it a pudding more suited to grown ups,  but lots of children have such sophisticated palates nowadays I wouldn’t like to count them out!! Continue reading

Hot Cross Buns

Q: What do you get if you pour a kettle of boiling water down a rabbit hole?

A: A hot cross bun!

A truly dreadful joke I admit but homemade hot cross buns are wonderful I promise   They are time consuming but most of that is because you have to wait longer than normal to let the dough rise, partly because it is an enriched dough and partly because the spices seem to slow the yeast down

Mind you, I cheat and make and shape my dough the day before and leave to prove in fridge overnight, then remove from fridge an hour before baking so we can have them for breakfast on Good Friday without getting up at the crack of dawn!!! Continue reading

Baked Gigot of Monkfish with a Warm Tomato Vinaigrette

It’s Good Friday today and traditionally in our household, and no doubt many others, we eat fish.  Unfortunately, lots of people I know get put off fish by the prospect of fiddling about with bones.  This is where monkfish comes into its own. The gigot (or tail) of monkfish only has a large central bone which makes serving easy!  But this is a dish that keeps on giving, because there is no last minute frying or poaching- it bakes in the oven.

Monkfish has a dense, white meaty flesh, and in this recipe it is spiked with anchovies to season (please don’t be put off if you aren’t sure about them, the anchovies melt into the monkfish), then marinated in lemon and olive oil, and nestled on a bed of Rosemary so that it is perfumed with its flavour as it bakes.  The warm tomato vinaigrette that is poured over just before serving is the perfect sauce and also goes well with whatever green vegetable you serve with it.  Today we had it with asparagus as it is growing like mad in the garden right now. Continue reading

Pineapple and Star Anise Tarte Tatin

I love tarte tatin   it’s quick, easy,  totally delicious and looks impressive.  I make it with apples (preferably cox or Braeburn) I make it with plums, apricots, greengages and now  I make it with pineapple

On Sunday I couldn’t think what I was going to make for pudding  Then my eye fell upon a lone pineapple sitting in the fruit bowl. I had ready made butter puff pastry in the fridge and I had star anise in the spice rack. I even had stem ginger ice cream in the freezer – things were looking good. Continue reading

Snowdrops – February’s Flower of the Month

It’s difficult to find flowers from the garden to decorate the house at this time of year.  But if you look they are there.  Close to the ground, their heads hanging down almost shyly.  Snowdrops.  “February’s Fair Maids” or “Candlemas Bells” – with Candlemas being the 2nd February – link snowdrops to this month.  My mood always lightens at the first sight of them because it means spring is well and truly on its way.  There are also yellow aconites and early hellebores.  Then there are the first catkins (which is what my French family mistakenly used to  think the English called kittens!!) Continue reading